Friday, August 29, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More Soft Rock Tunes

We're entering a weird phase of history where music is running out of elements to recycle and endless combinations to miscegenate. It's nothing new, or perhaps even fantastic, but much of the music of the last year seems to be about taking all the coolest parts of really lame music- the blunted electronics in prog/fusion outros, the mellifluous plastic soul croons of dentist-chair soft rock, the really cheesy moog histrionics of italo-disco- and combining it with traditional elements of more socially acceptable/groovy music (disco basslines, acidic techno stabs, dub echodrones). Call it the curse of "Digital Love". Or better yet, call it Balearic, because that's the blanket term everybody has been throwing on all the vaguely downtempo potpourri lately. The term makes no sense in a geographical/historical sense, but that's generally how these things go, eh?

What I wonder is- what will happen when the mainsteam finally latches onto this thing in a few year and waters it down? Will it just sound like the original soft-rock schlock? Or has "Balaeric" music already come pre-sanitized for air play? If that's the case, how much shelf life can it really expect in hip circles?

Whatever the case; here's my pick of the week and the review on it to boot: Studio- Yearbook 2 (review at Edge), which actually features no new music- only remixes.

Also, a followup on the Business Week Story I linked to way back when I first started this blog. A rare happy ending, seems Tanya Anderson has won her case...

Brief update on things I haven't reviewed that'll I'll probably have more to say about when I'm not exhausted:

2008 Things I'm Digging:

Burning Star Core- Challenger (Hospital Recordings)
I only just now thought of how pretentious the title of this record is when thought of in terms of "challenging" music, but fuck it. This is easily best of Yeh's I've heard to date (though I sincerely doubt anybody can listen to everything a noise band puts out). I'm looking forward to the day when more noise-heads drop the sweaty scary guy act and put out albums of real dynamic capacity.

Thomas Brinkmann- When Horses Die(Max Ernst)
Admittedly, there's a lot of Nick Cave in here. From what I've heard of Cave's latest "return to form" though ("Dig, Lazarus,Dig"- also not a fan of "No Pussy Blues"), he could stand to listen in on his imitators (who in turn happen to be minimalist innovators).

MGMT- "Time to Pretend" (Sony/Columbia)
A band I guess I was unfair to in that I had no interest in hearing anything they had to say (too many indie rock bands out there for one lifetime, I suppose, particularly ones on major labels), but I do quite like this song and it sounded kind of poignant (perhaps moreso than originally intended) being played over war footage on Democracy Now (of all places!).

Zomby- "Liquid Dancehall" (Ramp)
The name in itself seems to warrant a new sub-subgenre. How about it? Great tracks too. Almost a cartoon version of dubstep.

Non-2008 Things I'm Digging:

Tim Buckley- Goodbye/ Hello on through Lorca
I don't think this really bears explanation. Anybody who owns any of these knows how fantastic this whole run is. However, it did take me long enough to finally check it out. As a side note, I've been alphabetizing my CDs in what promises to be an arduous year-long endeavor and stopped at the Buckleys to give another listen to Songs for My Sweetheart, the Drunk and... it's still pretty dreadful. Sorry, younger Buckley!

Peter Shelley- "Homosapien"/"Yesterday's Not Here"
I recall hearing the former on MTV2 and being amazed that people could listen to songs like that and "Relax" and not think they were the gayest songs on the planet. These first two songs from Peter Shelley's Homosapien album definitely sound good enough to abandon the Buzzcocks for, even during some the Buzzcocks' more adventurous sonic stages (though when this came out they were pretty much dead weight). The rest of the album, unfortunately doesn't hold up as well.

Cabaret Voltaire- Methodology '74-'78 Attic Tapes (Mute)
I downloaded this because I was a little hesitant one what it might yield (some of the same Sheffieldian wankery found on the more boring parts of that The Future (pre-Human League/Heaven 17) release?), but the quality is actually pretty amazingly consistently high, especially considering I only really like about half of the Original Sound of Sheffield 78/82 compilation.

Britney Spears- "Freakshow"
Holy shit, really?

The Alan Parsons Project- "Eye in the Sky"
There's probably something wrong with me, but I can't stop listening to this song.

Magma- Kohntarkosz
Was this band some kind of secret? They're fucking amazing. Goddamnit for being born 7 years after this stuff came out.

Various Artists- Satan's Sermons and Other Electronic Fantasies Pt. 1
Can't remember which blog I got this off of, but it's more fantastic avant-garde electronics from the 70's, part of which sounds rather strangely like a pair of longform Forcefeel pieces I'd almost forgotten about.

Sidenote: Glad to see Grouper's Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill made it onto Pitchfork's recommended list. It's shaping up to be my favorite disc of the year. The reviewer seems to have flown a little off the deep end with the references though. Vivid Scene? Lida Husik? Vashti? I had to look half of them up and none of them sounded even remotely like what's on the album.

Stuff I'm on the fence/ Not that into:

Basic Channel- BCD2
Call it heresy, but I haven't been able to get into this as much. I've heard some great Chain Reaction records and am deeply into the Pole/ DeepChord post-BC stuff, but there's just something about this that doesn't strike me the same way.

Nas- Untitled
Lyrically, I was quite impressed by some of the lyrics, but (of what I've heard) the music and flow just seem mediocre at best.

Hercules and Love Affair
The new Clap Your Hand Say Yeah in that both have beyond-shitty names and make unfathomable drek that somehow gets lauded by every major publication. Actual, HALA are much much better than CYHSY, but that's really not saying much.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Axolotl Eyes

Here's another review from last week I never got to posting. It's on the newest collaboration between Can keyboardist Irmin Schmidt & producer Kumo. I've always found most of the post-Can solo outings to be a bit yawn-inducing, but this one's actually quite decent in parts.

For other listening habits and reading materials, Fact Magazine has a pretty decent list of the 20 Best Ambient albums, which is a pretty broad category. Though overrepresented by Eno (they probably should have capped it at one release per artist), it's a pretty all-encompassing selection.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Urban Zoology

At long last, as promised, the review for The Bug's London Zoo

As a bonus, I've also got the scoop on the disappointing new Booka Shade joint.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Donnie Dreado

There's a really interesting article from a few days back over at PopMatters about the ways in which Lost is one of the first episodic dramas to operate off of a kind of video game interface, like an extended RPG with consistently new levels, new clues, new bad guys, new challenges, food bars, etc. This is something that all the video game adaptations Hollywood has churned out have never attempted, and is probably the main reason for their failure. I'm not the most devoted fan of the show (its occasional inertia and inability to resolve anything often makes me think I'm wasting my time), but I also see parallels to comic book thinking too. The flashbacks and dys-chronology, the intercrossing storylines, and particularly the "commentary" episodes, which showcase each episode's own self-referentiality.

Another interesting, though totally tangent analogy I came across was on The Bug's new album. The few bars of Tears For Fears's "Mad World" that Warrior Queen intones at the end of "Insane" would certainly make any one who has been alive during the last decade think of Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko (and hopefully not the embarassing director's cut nor the unsolicited sequel being planned). You wouldn't immediately think of the film in terms of representations of the dub/ dubstep/ soundboy music scene, but there are some interesting shared traits; the apocalypticism, the vague connection to sci-fi, the allusions to divine/jah intervention, the rudeboy figure of Donnie- part punk/ part-avenger/ part-time romantic, the mess of pills (though the director's cut crudely reveals them to be placebos) and warped hallucinations, the obsession with the terminal. The feeling of dread alone could make it the tonal equivalent of a dark Kode9 or Digital Mystikz track. In fact, I now nominate it to be what Scarface is to gangsta rap, a cross-subcultural distillation of one's delusions of grandeur.